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Wilfred Owen's poem, Anthem for Doomed Youth

Wilfred OwenÆs poem, ôAnthem for Doomed Youthö (1917), is a sensitive expression of the sadness and futility which arise as a result of the death of young men on the battlefield. This theme stemmed from OwenÆs own experiences as a soldier on the frontlines during World War One. In order to express his theme, Owen mixes the sad, calm images of a funeral with the chaotic, explosive images of a battle. The poem was written in the form of an Italian Sonnet, and thus it has fourteen lines which are divided into an octave (eight lines) and a sestet (six lines). The rhyme scheme of the poem is a/b/a/b/c/d/c/d/e/f/f/e/g/g. As in most sonnets, the rhythm of ôAnthem for Doomed Youthö is based on the accents and pauses of iambic pentameter. In other words, each line has five beats, and each beat utilizes the pattern of an unstressed syllable followed by a stressed syllable. Owen makes effective use of this traditional format in order to create a musical rhythm, which enhances the overall effect of the poem.

More striking than OwenÆs use of rhythm, however, is his use of imagery to convey the tragic sense of death in wartime. The first part of the poem, the octave, places emphasis on the use of auditory images. Thus, the sounds of rattling guns, wailing shells and bugles (as heard in warfare) are compared with the sounds of prayers, bells and choirs (as heard in a funeral procession). The second section, the sestet, switches from the use of auditory imagery to that of visual imagery. Thus, the reader is induced to see such images as candles, flowers, the pallor of girlsÆ brows, and the eyes of boys that ôshine the holy glimmers of good-byesö (Line 11). The most vivid image of the poem occurs in the final line, in which death on the battlefield is visualized as being ôa drawing-down of blindsö (Line 14). With these contrasts in images, Owen effectively merges the destructive, chaotic sounds of battle with the sad, ...

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Wilfred Owen's poem, Anthem for Doomed Youth. (1969, December 31). In Retrieved 16:35, March 20, 2019, from